by Lynn on June 8, 2023

in The Passionate Playgoer

Live and in person at the Greenwin Theatre, Meridian Arts Centre, North York, Ont. Produced by the Harold Green Jewish Theatre.  Plays until June 11, 2023

Written by Ken Ludwig

Directed by David Eisner

Set by Brian Dudkiewicz

Lighting by Steve Lucas

Costumes by Alex Amini

Sound by Lyon Smith

Cast: Aris Athanasopoulos

Amy Keating

A courtship through letters written during the war between Jack Ludwig and Louise Rabiner, who would become the parents of playwright Ken Ludwig.

The Story. During WW II U.S. Army Captain Jacob S. Ludwig began writing letters to Louise Rabiner. He was stationed in Oregon.  She was an aspiring actress in New York City. Their fathers were friends and felt their two adult children would like each other and should ‘meet.’  They met and fell in love through letters and telegrams.  

He was known as ‘Jack’ and was serving in the army as a medical doctor. She was known as Louise and did a lot of auditioning as a dancer and then an actress. Jack sent the first letter—very formal, introducing himself and signing off as “U.S. Army Captain Jacob S. Ludwig” but would later write and say he is known as “Jack”.  Louise was more easygoing, more carefree in her letters. They wrote each other for three years before they actually met in person.

The Production. Director David Eisner has envisioned two separate spaces, nicely designed by Brian Dudkiewicz—one space stage right for Jack (Aris Athanasopoulos) with a simple metal desk, army issue, and one space for Louise (Amy Keating) stage left, with a writing desk a chair and several selections of dresses and a divider behind which she can change. Alex Amini’s dresses for Louise are stylish and bright-coloured.

They had been writing for several months when Louise suggested it was time they referred to each other by their first names. The letters told about themselves—Louise had to drag facts out of Jack. She was more forthcoming.

Initially each sat at their desks writing and speaking what they wrote. Eventually they either sat or stood in their sections, perhaps close to each other, verbalizing what they wrote. At times he didn’t write and that was because he had been called to see to tend to the wounded in the Pacific. Louise was worried something happened to him. But when he returned he was eager to allay her fears and explained he couldn’t write to her because the mission was a secret. They tried to meet in person a few times when Jack finally got leave but they were always thwarted. As the audience floats along with each eagerly anticipated letter, they felt the disappointment I’m sure as much as Jack and Louise when the war interfered with their meeting. The letters get more heartfelt. Emotions come easy as it’s obvious they are falling in love through their letters.

Both Aris Athanasopoulos as Jack and Amy Keating as Louise are two charming actors who bring a whole host of emotions to their performances under the sensitive and nuanced direction of David Eisner. Aris Athanasopoulos is courtly, boyish in a kind of formal way that eventually drops the formality. Amy Keating is the more fun-loving of the two, her emotions are closer to the surface.

Comment. If I do have a quibble, it’s with the piece itself. At 1 hour and 45 minutes divided over two acts it seems a bit thin in Act I and loaded with emotion and huge implications in Act II. I think Ken Ludwig would have had a stronger piece if he condensed the work to one Act and tightened the various revelations.

Ken Ludwig is considered one of the American Theatre’s finest comedic playwrights having written: Lend Me a Tenor, Moon Over Broadway and Crazy For You to name a few. Still Dear Jack, Dear Louise harkens back to a time when people actually took the time to write to loved ones, expressing their affections, inner most thoughts and dreams, with nary a ‘Facebook’ post or heart-emoji Tweet in sight. My quibble aside, it’s a sweet play, done very well.

The Harold Green Jewish Theatre presents:

Plays until June 11, 2023.

Running time: 1 hour, 45 minutes (1 intermission)

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